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Daniel Barnes, with a fine bunch of Canadian musicians in tow, combines an appetizing fare of mainstream and “contemporary” jazz on Culmination. Consider the latter to be dessert: it is light and swirly but feels neither treacly nor bland. Matter of fact, it is spiked, so just sit back and enjoy.
Barnes knows his way with a tune. He dispenses with drums for percussion on “Sweet Nights,” giving the euphonious tune a bearable lightness of being. It glides on the soprano sax of Mike Murley, who unfurls the melody with a delectable sonority. Levon Ichkhanian enhances the mood with edgy guitar that never forsakes the melody and with the percussive dance beneath, this song is indeed a joy. So is the dub version of a Sonny Rollins tune, here called “Alfie’s Dub,” where the electric bass and the bass drum are used to get the island effect going. Niel Chapman chimes in with a reggae beat on guitar while Murley sways the melody on the tenor, with even the trombone of Meirion Kelly getting into the act by bouncing thick notes off the beat.
John Coltrane’s “Equinox” does not include the saxophone, dwelling instead on the guitar and the piano as the main instruments. Ichkhanian smoulders, inserting enticing changes, switching the tempo and adding tension, a spectrum of perception. Botos is appropriately ruminative, enveloping his solo in a comfortably lyrical cloak. They whoop it up on “Blues For The Wicket,” a roiling blues. Kevin Turcotte blazes a trail of rhythmically vibrant ideas, the skein picked by William Carn on the trombone while Barnes stirs things up with crisp time. This is a nice one, eh!
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.